Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Looking to get married? Make sure you’re looking in the right places. I know, it’s easy to say “look in the right places,” but it can be hard finding singles in other settings than bars and clubs. Besides, what right does God have in making demands about your future spouse? Or maybe you’re already in a relationship, but everyone is telling you to move on to someone else. But what if there isn’t someone else? What if that’s as good as it gets for you? Oh my friend, the Holy Spirit wants you to remember how big your God is.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15,
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
According to Scripture like this, joining together with a non-Christian is a recipe for disaster. In fact, for those who came late to the Christ party and are already married to an unbeliever, Paul wrote,
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).
That’s right, aside from adultery, the Lord also allows for divorce in marriages with non-believers. Where does the Lord get off with this sort of stuff? Doesn’t he realize that restricting marriage eliminates a lot of potential relationships? As it turns out, God has been restricting marriage much longer than the New Testament days. While preparing the Israelites before letting them enter Canaan to take their land, the Lord gave firm instructions to his people:
When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you – and when the lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you (Deuteronomy 7:1-4)
And this wasn’t just a proclamation before they met other nations. The Lord fully intended to keep the Israelites separate from the nations around them; even after he had sent them into exile among said nations. Ezra 9:1-4 talks about what happened after the Israelites came back to Jerusalem and started to rebuild,
After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.
The Israelites had been called to marry only fellow Jews, and by not following such a decree they were hurting not only themselves, but their whole community. But within Israel there were actually some even tighter restrictions than that. See, at the time, land usually went to the men in the family. But when someone only had only daughters, said daughters would inherit the land. History records God’s decree on such matters,
Then at the Lord’s command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: “What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. This is what the Lord commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers (Numbers 36:5-8).
That’s extremely restrictive! What if all the men in a gal’s clan were jerks?
Well, they probably weren’t; because God takes marriage pretty seriously. Jesus once gave a fairly moving speech on the subject. We read,
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, well, back then marriage wasn’t about love.” That’s absolutely not true at all. The whole book of Ruth is a love story; and it even calls attention to the fact that Ruth and Boaz could have ended up with more profitable choices than each other. After Ruth essentially proposes to him, the Bible records Boaz’s response, “’The Lord bless you, my daughter,’ he replied. ‘This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor’” (Ruth 3:10). As a note those without a lot of Bible experience, Ruth wasn’t his daughter, it’s a (somewhat creepy) term of endearment. And in the wisdom of the Proverbs it is written,
May your fountain be blessed,
And may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer-
May her breasts satisfy you always,
May you ever be captivated by her love (Proverbs 5:18-19).
Wait, did that juts talk about love…and sex? Absolutely, sexual attraction is a part of love as well; and the Bible (especially the parts written by Solomon) doesn’t hide that. Here, just check out the opening of the Song of Songs (which is about two lovers):
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-
For your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
Your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the maidens love you!
Take me away with you – let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers
We rejoice and delight in you;
We will praise your love more than wine.
How right they are to adore you! (Song of Songs 1:2-4)
Just in the first few verses you get a feel for the whole book; it’s all that mushy, cutesy, horny stuff that comes when you first fall in love. We think the Bible is all stuffed-shirts and responsibility, but no; love is love and the Lord who designed love knows exactly what it is and wants us to find that love. Why? Because that’s the love he feels for us as well. Paul wrote,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The Lord doesn’t just love us like a parent, he’s in love with us. Marriage itself is a love based relationship, as it is a representation of God’s relationship to us. When he finished writing about marriage, Paul ended with this, “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:32-33). After going into great detail about husbands and wives, Paul basically said, “Actually, I’m talking about God’s love for you…but…um, do that stuff with your spouse too.” Don’t ever think that love isn’t a major part of God’s marriage equation.
If love is such an important factor, how can God justify limiting our options to Christians only? It isn’t limiting when you consider that the Lord watches over every aspect of your life. Or, as the Bible puts it, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26). The Lord has all power and total control over everything in your life. He’s God! Master over space and time! God can tell you where to find your mate because he can put your mate right there. We read, “The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you’” (Numbers 11:23). The Lord is in the business of making miracles, which includes a miraculous mate for you.
You don’t need to search high and low because God will help you meet Mr. or Miss Right in the realm you’ve been called to. We can trust this because the Gospel tells us,
So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33).
If God cares about your food, drink, and clothes – things that have no effect on him – then how can you think he’d deny you love, a feeling he has in abundance? So if you’re single; be patient and focus on Godly stuff, your mate will come. And if you’re in a relationship with someone who firmly opposes God; have the faith to drop him or her and wait for God’s chosen lover. Follow God and he’ll set you up with the person best for you; because he knows more about that than you do.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).